Efforts to unify multiple disparate business communication tools first gained widespread attention in the mid-1980s when a company called VMX developed an email reader function for its voice mail systems. From that modest beginning, unified communications has steadily evolved to become a key enabling technology for today’s remote and hybrid working models.
The Growth of Unified Communications Technologies
UC’s remote conferencing and collaboration tools have become essential for enabling geographically scattered teams to make anytime, anywhere connections. Meanwhile, UC vendors continue to add new capabilities and features that offer more flexibility, improved interoperability, enhanced collaboration and easier management.
While the continued evolution of UC will certainly create a range of new efficiencies, it can present a dilemma for organizations looking to improve their communications infrastructure. How do you future-proof your investment in technology that is constantly being enriched and enhanced?
Unified Communications System Upgrade Challenges
On-premises UC systems have an expected lifespan of about 10 years, although many remain in operation for twice that long. Systems that old lack some important capabilities such as increased mobile connectivity and deeper integration with desktop applications.
Upgrading an older UC solution can be a challenge. Software and operating system updates can help introduce new functionality, but evolving hardware requirements may force you to move the system to entirely new infrastructure. Eventually, you may get to the point that there is no direct upgrade or migration path for the latest features.
Maintaining an outdated system can result in a variety of negative consequences. A 2019 Mitel study found that businesses lose an average of $11,000 per employee per year due to ineffective or inadequate communication. In addition, the study found that communication barriers create friction between employees and/or departments and have a negative impact on customer experiences.
Over time, maintenance and security can become critical problems as well. Finding replacement hardware for older systems can become difficult and expensive, increasing the risk of unexpected downtime. Outdated software no longer supported by the manufacturer can create security and compliance issues.
A manufacturer-offered software maintenance plan is one way to achieve some investment protection. While these programs vary by vendor, most provide subscription-based access to patch management, bug fixes, feature updates and major version upgrades. Continuous improvements also help ensure a smooth transition should changing business requirements dictate a major system upgrade.
Benefits of Cloud-Based Unified Communications
Moving to a cloud-based system is probably the best way to future-proof UC, however. UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS) relieves you of the need to purchase, maintain and upgrade servers, routers, gateways and other hardware. More important, it ensures you always have access to the latest UC features and functions without forklift upgrades.
In today’s business environment, the ability to deliver advanced communication and collaboration services to mobile and remote users is a particularly important benefit. For example, Mitel’s MiCloud Connect is a comprehensive cloud communications and collaboration platform that extends voice, chat, video, file sharing and other capabilities to all employees, regardless of location or device. It provides a consistent user experience across mobile phones, desk phones and desktop apps.
Future Proof Your Unified Communications Platform
Cloud-delivered UC platforms also feature application programming interfaces that enable mobile voice and messaging integration with key business applications such as CRM, ERP, sales force automation and supply chain management. Other APIs and connectors allow integration with workflow management and compliance systems, giving IT departments more visibility and control over mobile communications.
Grand View Research expects the UC market to grow by more than 20 percent annually through 2028 with cloud-based solutions driving much of that growth. Contact us to learn how moving to the cloud can future-proof your UC solution by ensuring continual access to the latest communications and collaboration features while also reducing capital spending on infrastructure.